Saturday, May 8, 2021

Maybe she's just smarter than Kevin

Illustration by hotlittlepotato via Wired.

An interesting claim in this WaPo story: Liz Cheney seems to think there is evidence she has the politics right, and party management seems to be trying to hide the evidence from members:

When staff from the National Republican Congressional Committee [at an April retreat] rose to explain the party’s latest polling in core battleground districts, they left out a key finding about Trump’s weakness, declining to divulge the information even when directly questioned about Trump’s support by a member of Congress, according to two people familiar with what transpired.

Trump’s unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core districts, according to the full polling results, which were later obtained by The Washington Post. Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Distrust Doom Loop

Doom Loop: Richmond Mural Project 2014, by Onur and Wes21, photo by Brandon Bartoszek, 2019.

Breaking: On further consideration, Brooks ("Our Pathetic Herd Immunity Failure") thinks the New Deal may have been OK:

The New Deal was an act of social solidarity that created the national cohesion we needed to win World War II. I am not in the habit of supporting massive federal spending proposals. But in this specific context — in the midst of a distrust doom loop — this is our best shot of reversing the decline.

Not, to be sure, because it rescued millions of Americans from hunger, homelessness, and despair, but because it created "cohesion". Which prepared us for the Second World War. And probably would have prepared us for the Covid-19 pandemic too, if we'd only had a good Great Depression beforehand for an excuse. You don't want a New Deal every day, because that's awfully expensive, but it's just the thing to get you out of a Distrust Doom Loop  (the phrase sounds like Tom Friedman having a panic attack, but is Brooks's own, premiered in an article in The Atlantic last October).

Maybe if Trump had offered people a little New Deal in 2019, he'd have saved us from the Distrust Doom Loop of 2020.

And if something had given David Brooks more of a social cohesion feeling he would have handled it better himself, almost exactly a year ago, as our friend reminds us:

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Literary Corner: The Committed Woke

In memory of the great Merle Haggard, who may not have smoked marijuana in Muskogee, but certainly did in every other town on the circuit:

We don't get up early in Biloxi
We don't set our radio alarms
We don't ever wear a mask on Main Street
Or brag on vaccinations in our arms

We don't go for wokie in Muskogee
Or Tupelo or old Sault Saint-Marie
We don't buzz on coffee in Kentucky
Cause dead asleep is where we want to be

I"m proud to be unwoke in Oklahoma
I'm proud to be asleep in Tennessee
I"m proud to linger in my bed in Texas
Cause I love livin right and sleepin free

We don't allow no racism in Tulsa
We drove it out a hundred years ago
We had to drive our black folks all out with it
But nothing in this life comes free, you know

We don't take to critical race theory
We like lettin well enough alone
Criticize your forebears if you want to
I"ll be here just sleepin like a stone

I"m proud to be unwoke in Oklahoma
I'm proud to be asleep in Tennessee
I"m proud to linger in my bed in Texas
Cause I love livin right and sleepin free

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Another Steele Dossier?

Updated 5 May

This is kind of interesting, reported in England by The Telegraph (paywall) and picked up by the Sydney Morning Herald: It seems Christopher Steele compiled a second dossier on Donald Trump, this one directly for the FBI, after Trump took office:

The second dossier contains raw intelligence that makes further claims of Russian meddling in the US election and also references claims regarding the existence of further sex tapes. The second dossier is reliant on separate sources to those who supplied information for the first reports.

The fact the FBI continued to receive intelligence from Steele, who ran MI6’s Russia desk from 2006 to 2009 before setting up Orbis, is potentially significant because it shows his work was apparently still being taken seriously after Trump took hold of the reins of power.

It was, was it? We'd been given to believe FBI broke off relations with Steele in November 2016, after David Corn revealed the existence of the original dossier in a Halloween article in Mother Jones—not that at that point that they didn't trust his research, but that they couldn't trust him to stay away from the press, which is understandable (I can also understand Steele's point of view, that the FBI didn't seem to be doing anything with the material he'd showed them, even as they publicly reopened an obviously bogus investigation into Hillary Clinton, and someone who appeared to be a tool of the Russian government was dangerously close to getting elected president of the United States, and he and Glenn Simpson felt morally obliged to do something).

But it's not exactly true that the FBI broke off with Steele. DOJ's Bruce Ohr kept talking to Steele, and the FBI was aware, and opinions on it in the Bureau differed:

Monday, May 3, 2021

Joe did what? He didn't—yet.



Republican Chuck Hagel and Democrat Joe Lieberman in 2008, when they were both being considered for cross-the-aisle vice presidential candidacies. Remember who won the vice presidency? Via Politico.

Really interesting tidbit from Anita Kumar/Politico, passing on what look to me like some pretty carefully orchestrated hints from the White House as to what's likely to happen to the Biden agenda this summer, after he's finished with the essential task of looking hopeful for Republican cooperation:

But Biden aides also are hinting that there are time limits to how long that engagement will last. They say the president hopes to make progress on both spending bills — either as a pair or individually — by Memorial Day and sign them into law this summer. And the calendar creates some urgency: By the end of his first year, members of Congress will be consumed by the midterms and then the next presidential race. The White House also knows how a drag-on legislative process can consume a presidency and party.

“Biden and the people around him understand you have to get as much done this year as possible,” said Republican Chuck Hagel, who served with Biden in the Senate and later served as Defense secretary in the Obama administration. “At what point then — if you’re not making any progress on any front and you've been willing to compromise on some things — do you have to go it alone. That’s a decision they’re going to have to make. You don’t have a lot of time.”

Unparliamentary Language


Erskine May, 1st Baron Farnborough, KCB, Under Clerk of the Parliaments from 1871 to 1886. Via Wikipedia.

Lovely buried lede in this Guardian story about Prime Minister Boris Johnson's inveterate lying, which is becoming increasingly hard for Britain to live with:

On Tuesday an exasperated cross-party group of MPs went to see [Speaker of the House of Commons Lindsay] Hoyle. Their message: the parliamentary protocols drawn up in Victorian times no longer work. “We need new rules for this Trumpian era of British politics,” Green MP Caroline Lucas told the Radio 4 Today programme. The MPs want to be able to call him out – and the charge sheet against him is long.

Under the ministerial code, an MP who makes a false statement to the Commons is supposed to correct the record. Johnson has repeatedly ignored this obligation, making a litany of inaccurate claims which he subsequently fails to fix. Seemingly, Erskine May, the sideburned baron who established parliamentary procedure, did not envisage a PM like Johnson.

Basically, they're asking permission to use unparliamentary language and call Johnson a liar, preferably to his face at Question Time.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

All Power to the Oppressed Parents!

Children in New York City's universal pre-K program, abandoned by their selfish millionaire moms who'd rather be at a power lunch with their law partners. David Brooks begs, don't let this happen to the rest of America! Via Day Care Council of New York.

Shorter David F. Brooks ("Power to the Parents!", New York Times 30 April 2021)"

We must allow parents to make their own decisions on building their families! I mean unless they make the wrong decisions, obviously we need to keep an eye on that.

This is such a great example of a particular manner of Republican argumentation, addressed to Biden's American Families Plan and its cruel and insidious attempt to force our nation's 3- and 4-year-olds into quality pre-kindergarten programs against their parents' desires.

That is—he begins with praise for the expanded child tax credit program of the American Rescue (to be extended out to 2025 under American Families), which gives parents $300 per month (for adjusted gross income of $150,000 for a couple filing jointly, less for higher incomes) per child under 5, $250 for kids 6 to 16, for the freedom it allows parents to decide what to do with the money

Joe Did What? Not Deficit Hawkery.


Bathtub boats, via Walmart.

So, as promised earlier in the week, to the Biden program: one reassuring thing we've learned over the pandemic year is that the federal government has a lot of fiscal and financial tools for dealing with an out-of-the-blue emergency. We may not be totally able to rely on the people, in Congress, in the White House, at the Fed, but the tools are really there—we don't need to devise a whole new system, the way the Union did (and the Confederacy failed to do) at the outset of the Civil War. The Federal Reserve Bank can keep interest rates near zero for years at a time, it seems, and Treasury can borrow more or less unlimited funds to deal with it, if Congress allows them to. And indeed, they've borrowed $4.3 trillion for Covid relief since March 2020, the last $1.9-trillion tranche signed by President Joe Biden, in a bill passed without a single Republican vote.

Which is a sign that Democrats may not be simply reverting "back to the days of paygo politics," as David Dayen complains, when they propose they propose some $4 trillion in tax hikes, all of it on the top 0.3% earners and on corporations, to "pay for" the planned new spending of the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan:

“So, how do we pay for my Jobs and Family Plan?  I made it clear, we can do it without increasing the deficits,” Biden said last night. “What I propose is fair, fiscally responsible, and it raises revenue to pay for the plans I have proposed.” This was in a section where Biden attacked trickle-down economics, but even there, he condemned Trump for adding “$2 trillion to the deficit” with his tax cuts.